Thursday, December 31, 2009


"It is a little embarrassing, that after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to try to be a little kinder to each other."

Aldous Huxley





costello picks up where he left off w/king of america & does his inimitable version of americana. it's his strongest album in years. i listened to it constantly when it first came out & it withstood that kind of scrutiny. i think he'll always be a rocker deep down in his heart but i'm certainly enjoying his take on i wrote about this album earlier this year.

i wrote about these guys earlier this year when i first found this video on the web. what i thought then & still think now is that this is what brian wilson's vision has evolved into for the 21st century. the fact that three guys produce this lush & beautiful music is damn impressive. they also do solo work & i'm particularly fond of panda bear's(one of the guy's pseudonyms)work.


tonight's full moon is exceptional for several reasons. it's the SECOND full moon for december which makes it a true blue moon. a blue moon on new years eve comes around every 19 years or so. tonight's moon will also be eclipsed, tho north americans won't be able to see it.

this is nanci griffith doing patrick alger's "once in a very blue moon." i've always like the song & her version of it. ken & i used to play this song w/haller at the outrigger.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009



perfect moon
I am calling
perfect moon
clad impure
I approach
your naked neck
perfect moon

perfect moon
I am with you
perfect moon
I adore
to thy great
I am yours
perfect moon

From Early Work / 1970 - 1979, Copyright © Patti Smith 1996

she was on every dance tape of every palm court party at new college during my time there. it wasn't just because the new york hipsters ran the parties. it was because this music worked & was wired into the zeitgeist &, above all else, allowed everyone to dance crazily, drunkenly...which was what those parties were all about.


i've been listening to waits & playing his songs since the first album came out way back in high school. everyone thought nighthawks at the diner(not his first but the one i could get most people to listen to because of his monologues between songs) was amusing but waits was a hard sell, even to most of the p'cola crowd. as i've said before, when i first got to new college, i could clear a room full of people just by putting on one of his albums. somewhere in the new college years, things changed & the new york hipsters there embraced waits & that's been where he's stayed for the most part. you can gauge the hipness of a hipster now by how many waits albums he owns or can reference.
on the other hand, this tour was sold out & a success. it got that way through word of mouth. waits is sounding more like the old testament prophets the last few years but, hey, that's a job somebody's has to do when you consider the sorry state we're in.

i've been a will oldham fan since uva. i don't remember where i got clued into palace but that first album convinced me that there was something happening & if i kept track of it, it might reveal itself to me. i'm not sure it ever revealed itself but it's been quite a ride. this album wasn't the revelation i'd been prepared for but it was strong & deep & consistent. oldham can go way off on tangents & never return but this album was steady & sincere.
oldham is an acquired taste(like waits)but the world he creates musically is worth biting the bullet for & exploring. this album isn't a bad place to start.


there haven't been too many supergroups that lived up to the advance hype that generally accompanies their formation. if these guys put out a couple more albums, they'll have the title "supergroup" all to themselves. this album works for me almost all the way through. i don't hear any filler. it's strong & re-affirms my rejection of the "bradley principle," that great music stopped being made after 1973.

i wrote about these guys last year. they returned w/a stronger album. furthermore, they just seem to be having such a damn good time & that's what it's all about.

i think we all kind of forgot about jesse. i know i did & i've been doing his songs for nearly 30 years. his outstanding back catalog of songs would make anyone envious. he's still as clever as all the hipster smirky smartasses of today & is blessed w/an ear for melody that only neil young used to have. this particular song is lovely.


i don't think this is the best example of the creative chemistry that exists between buddy miller & his wife, julie but i think it works well enough to fit in here. it's partially remarkable because ms miller has been battling some demons for the last few years & been unable to tour or record. i prefer their first eponymously titled collaboration but this one has enough strong songs to work for me.

neko case seems to be getting better & better as she goes along. this album had all her strong qualities out front(rhythmic inventiveness, tight arrangements, her voice, her "pathetic fallacy" lyrics)& there is a spaciousness to the arrangements that comes from a group really inhabiting the music. ann & i saw her open for merle haggard in oakland & that voice is just as strong & clear live as it is on her albums. i remember how we were in awe of linda ronstadt's voice back in high school. i feel the same way about neko case's. she's become one of those artists whose work you anticipate w/great expectation.







Monday, December 28, 2009

elvis costello's spectacle

at this point, i don't think anyone who loves pop music should be missing this show. in fact, i think you should go back & check out last season's offerings as well as gearing up for the new season's line-up. the show is on sundance every wednesday night but they repeat it several times during the week.

i already wrote about the jaw-dropping moment that costello & lou reed shared last season. so far, they've already had several more & i'm not even talking about the incredible interviews, especially the one w/bono & edge. musically, they're just doing things almost perfectly. if i had to change anything about the show, it would be leaving "popular" deadweight off the shows like sheryl crow & nora jones AND i wouldn't press the guests to do their most popular songs(eg, winchester doing "brand new tennessee waltz).

otherwise, it seems like each show has some stunning nugget on it. for example, i'm amazed costello says he didn't really care for this song until ron sexsmith "rescued" it for him. i've always like this one & i really like this acoustic slowed down version.

enjoy. & tune in.


"This society which eliminates geographical distance reproduces distance internally as spectacular separation."
--- Guy Debord

debord sensed the move from temporal to visual, from personal to communal, from justice to law. i can't think on anyone who should be read as reference for the experience of our peculiar brand of new millenium alienation more. writers like dick & gibson sensed what was happening & gave us their warnings but debord spelled it out.
ignore at your own risk.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


"I take SPACE to be the central fact to man born in America. I spell it large because it comes large here. Large and without mercy."

Saturday, December 26, 2009


"To be free, as I then knew myself to be, is to realize that all conquest is vain, even the conquest of self, which is the last act of egotism. To be joyous is to carry the ego to its last summit and to deliver it triumphantly. To know peace is total: it is the moment after, when the surrenderer is complete, when there is no longer even the consciounsness of surrender. Peace is at the centre and when it is attainded the voice issues forth in praise and benediction. Then the voice carries far and wide, to the outermost limits of the universe. Then it heals, because it brings light and the warmth of compassion."

The Colossus of Maroussi (1941)

i have to admit to having mixed feelings about miller's work. there's a lot of it & i loved colossus of maroussi & big sur and the oranges of heironymous bosch. there were parts of the big work(the rosy crucifixion, comprising 3 big novels)that were truly fine. i never thought he was a great writer about sex & couldn't understand the big deal that was made about that aspect of his writing. like his buddy, lawrence durrell, there was something in the prose that seemed forced, even awkward at times. i think it has to do w/the limitations of his subject matter. if you're going to put yourself front & center in your narratives, you'd better be able to let it rip. i talking honesty & unflinching self reflection. i always felt as low as miller seemed to want to go, the depths were just a little too pristine, too aestheticized. as shit-stained as his boxers probably were, he never mentioned them.

when he was good, engaged w/something outside of himself(like greece or big sur), he soared remarkably high. he was our 20th century whitman. seeing a picture of him later in life, down on the coast in big sur, you understand why the beats revered him & why he's such an influence on their work. he's the most american writer i can think of w/all the various contradictions & failures & triumphs that implies.









"I’m not an optimist/I’m not a realist/I might be a sub-realist"

i was waiting for it & i got it. the usual downer c'mas story. i'll write more about him later but this is sad & awful. i guess he got his c'mas wish. he'd been trying for years.

mourn & enjoy.
i think that's the whole point to art, yes?

nyt obit here.
SFCHRON OBIT(does better by him).

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"all this talk of getting old..."

mother told me that once, when bobo had called her to tell her about someone they knew who had died & she'd expressed incredulity, he'd responded to her by saying, "well, that's what we'll be getting from here on out: hospitals & funerals." bobo wasn't known for his delicate touch at comforting the grieving but, i'll be damned, he didn't miss a funeral or a chance to see someone in the hospital.

this song is actually about the singer's father dying of cancer but it could be about anyone & everyone struggling to maintain some dignity as their physical beings decay from the ordinary effects of aging. mishima called it "the decay of the angel" & he had a solution for it but most of us aren't up for his kind of shenanigans.

this is a lovely song that i just stumbled upon finding billy bragg youtube moments. he does a good version w/kt tunstall but i'm sticking w/the guy who wrote it. he actually makes you feel like there's a way out of here alive.


"we will have to go far away to atone for the suffering..."


w/two wars going on right now, sometimes it's a good thing to think back on past ones & remember the consequences. incredibly, it sometimes seems so so easy to forget. bly is 83yo today & i've been reading him now for 35 years.

Driving through Minnesota During the Hanoi Bombings - Robert Bly

We drive between lakes just turning green;
Late June. The white turkeys have been moved
A second time to new grass.
How long the seconds are in great pain!
Terror just before death,
Shoulders torn, shot
From helicopters. “I saw the boy
being tortured with a telephone generator,”
The sergeant said.
“I felt sorry for him
And blew his head off with a shotgun.”
These instants become crystals,
The grass cannot dissolve. Our own gaiety
Will end up
In Asia, and you will look down in your cup
And see
Black Starfighters.
Our own cities were the ones we wanted to bomb!
Therefore we will have to
Go far away
To atone
For the suffering of the stringy-chested
And the short rice-fed ones, quivering
In the helicopter like wild animals,
Shot in the chest, taken back to be questioned.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Urgent Telegram to Jean-Michel Basquiat
by Kevin Young




"It is the content of his work that serves as a barrier, challenging the Eurocentric gaze that commodifies, appropriates and celebrates. In keeping with the codes of that street culture he loved so much, Basquiat's work is in your face. It confronts different eyes in different ways. Looking at the work from a Eurocentric perspective, one sees and values only those aspects that mimic familiar white Western artistic traditions. Looking at the work from a more inclusive standpoint, we are all better able to see the dynamism springing from the convergence, contact and conflict of varied traditions...

Basquiat was in no way secretive about the fact that he was influenced and inspired by the work of white artists. It is the multiple other sources of inspiration and influence that are submerged, lost, when critics are obsessed with seeing him as solely connected to a white Western artistic continuum. These other elements are lost precisely because they are often not seen, or if seen, not understood. When art critic Thomas McEvilley suggests that "this black artist was doing exactly what classical-Modernist white artists such as Picasso and Georges Braque had done: deliberately echoing a primitive style," he erases all of Basquiat's distinct connections to a cultural and ancestral memory that linked him directly to "primitive" traditions. This then allows McEvilley to make the absurd suggestion that Basquiat was "behaving like white men who think they are behaving like black men," rather than understand that Basquiat was grappling with both the pull of a genealogy that is fundamentally "black" (rooted in African diasporic "primitive" and "high art" traditions) and a fascination with white Western traditions. Articulating the distance separating traditional Eurocentric art from his own history and destiny and from the collective fate of diasporic black artists and black people, Basquiat's paintings testify.
" bell hooks art in america june 1993

"To Whites every Black holds a potential knife behind the back, and to every Black the White is concealing a whip. We were born into this dialogue and to deny it is fatuous. Our responsibility is to overcome the sins and fears of our ancestors and drop the whip, drop the knife." rene ricard artforum december 1981


"I grow gnomic. It is the last phase." - The Letters of Samuel Becket

Monday, December 21, 2009

"when the world falls apart, some things stay in place..."


this guy has a pretty large body of work at this point. i came to him late but i'm convinced he's the real deal. his stuff is available on itunes. this is one of my favorites. there's nothing like a little motown to make you forget your life for a few minutes. levi stubbs sang on many of my favorite motown songs &, if i ever get around to it, "standing in the shadows of love" will be the title of my new college novel.


Saturday, December 19, 2009


"Black or white, local or out-of-town, they all had Longhair's music in common. Just that mambo-rhumba boogie thing." ALLEN TOUSSAINT

the shit-ass willard & i were in new orleans in december of 1979. it was a memorable trip for several reasons but none more memorable than seeing professor longhair at tipitina's. it was his penultimate performance but there was no way of knowing that, especially since he rocked the joint that night. it was the first time i'd been to the local legend tipitina's & it wasn't like any venue i'd ever seen music in before. it had only been open for two years at the time but it seemed like some ancient cave that provided succor for a deeply primitive people. it was, quite simply, a juke-joint & fess' music fit the place perfectly. he played late into the night & everyone just kept dancing & singing along. it was quite a scene.

of course, now, we can stand there & look back at fats waller & forward to see fats domino & huey smith & further, to toussaint & booker & mac rebennack. that rhumba boogie groove is at the heart of so much music, be it rock & roll or rhythm & blues. mr. byrd's place in music history is pretty much assured but it's always a good thing to spend a few minutes reflecting on the many figures in our past who built & created the musical structures of the present. it's even better if that reflection is based on an actual real life experience.

i've been to "tips" many times since that night in mid december 1979 & i've seen some great shows there but none that pulsed so vibrantly w/living & being in the world.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


"Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups…So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing."

- from "How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later" (1978)


from two of the best releases of 2009. booker t & the drive by truckers(w/neil young)put out the astonishing instrumental album, potato hole. this is a pure blast of muscle shoals soul, an unexpected treat.
the second is from tom waits' live album from his last tour, glitter & doom.
a full list of my favorite 2009 albums is forthcoming.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009



"Long afterward, Oedipus, old and blinded, walked the roads. He smelled a familiar smell. It was the Sphinx. Oedipus said, "I want to ask you one question. Why didn't I recognize my mother?" "You gave the wrong answer," said the Sphinx. "But that was what made everything possible," said Oedipus. "No," she said. "When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered, Man. You didn't say anything about woman." "When you say Man," said Oedipus, "you include women too. Everyone knows that." She said, "That’s what you think.""

Friday, December 11, 2009

"we're gonna have us a time..."

i read an interview w/ray wiley hubbard a while back & he listed "choctaw bingo" as the one song he wished he'd written. i'd never heard it but filed it away to find later & promptly forgot about it. then, i saw mcmurtry at the hardly bluegrass festival 3 years ago & was jolted by one number in particular. i couldn't make out a lot of the words but the beat stuck w/me & when i got around to searching it on-line work, you guessed it: "choctaw bingo". the song is peopled w/characters from out of denis johnson's jesus'son & is propelled along by a thumping bass that just keeps things moving.

james mcmurty is the novelist larry mcmurty's son. james writes some of the best political songs of anyone around. he announced at the hardly bluegrass festival that he & his band could be found playing every tuesday night at a certain bar in austin texas. i don't think ray wiley hubbard has a regular austin gig.


Having a Coke with You

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, IrĂșn, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvellous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you about it


sometimes it's best to sit back & let the poets just tell you a story. frank o'hara was just the poet to do that & keep you entertained for hours on end. if this poem & his reading of it doesn't bring back memories of things gone by, you're one of the living dead.

i read majorie perloff's essay on o'hara back when i was just out of high school(before the essay became her first book in a long string of dead-on amazing books of criticism) &, consequently, stole his just published collected poems from the university of west florida library. to say i was dazzled by his work is a mild understatement. i will say that his work is something i never tried to imitate. it did then & does now feel like something utterly original & rare & inimitable.

kind of like emily dickinson, who also had a story to tell.


Tell all the Truth but tell it slant---
Success in Cirrcuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind---

i can't think of a major poet who was ignored & mistreated as badly as dickinson, mostly due to her gender but also due to her otherworldly vision & style. the work endured horrendous, nearly incapacitating, editing. her syntax & punctuation were cleaned up. her gathering various poems into "fasciles," fourty small bound pamphlets, was ignored too. the "books" were hand stitched & assembled & clearly revolved around different themes, indicating she had a clear vision of what she was doing. as much as she's been protrayed as a nearly "idiot savant" or "outsider" poet, the work stands there as utter refutation of such notions.

btw, scholars have put the fasciles back together. for example, fascile 16 consists of these eleven poems:
* Before I got my eye put out--
* Of nearness to her sundered Things
* Tie the Strings to my Life, My Lord,
* I like a look of Agony
* I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
* "Tis so appalling--it exhilarates--
* How noteless Men and Pleids, stand,
* When we stand on top of things--
* 'Twas just this time, last year, I died.
* Afraid! Of whom am I afraid?
* He showed me Hights I never saw--

here is a webpage that discusses this aspect of dickinson's art.
i'll also mention the poet susan howe's astonishing book, my emily dickinson, & susan cameron's groundbreaking book that first addressed the "fasciles" issue & understood just what they meant, choosing not choosing.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


"New Owner Is Outside Family
Galatoire's Is Sold

Yesterday, after some legal wrangling and bargaining during the past year or so, the majority ownership of Galatoire's was bought by Todd Trosclair. That marks the first time someone outside the Galatoire family controlled the iconic property. Here are the details in a press release I received this morning:

Galatoire family members Leon Galatoire, Michele Galatoire, Duane Galatoire Attaway, Ashley Attaway and Craighten Attaway have partnered with local businessman Todd Trosclair, to purchase Galatoire's Restaurant in New Orleans and Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. The acquisition was completed on Dec. 8, 2009.

"This is good news for our family, our company and our patrons," said Duane Galatoire Attaway. "With this acquisition, we enter a new era that ensures the many Galatoire's traditions started over 100 years ago by Jean Galatoire will continue through my generation and my children's, Ashley and Craighten, the fifth generation of Galatoires."

"My sister, Michele, and I are very excited about this announcement," said Leon Galatoire. "This is truly a milestone in the history of our restaurant, and we welcome Todd into our family."

Galatoire family member David Gooch will remain part of the restaurant's management team. Melvin Rodrigue, chief operating officer of Galatoire's Restaurant and Galatoire's Bistro, and Executive Chef Brian Landry will continue to oversee the daily management of both Galatoire's locations. No staff or menu changes are planned at either restaurant.

"We want our patrons to know they will continue to experience Galatoire's as they always have," Trosclair said. "Our focus on tradition and quality of food and service will remain, preserving the Galatoire's that has been revered for nearly 105 years."

What the release doesn't say is that there's been a competition between two groups to buy the restaurant for the past year. The negotiations were complicated by the fact that one faction of the family--led by Leon Galatoire--had the right of first refusal if any sale of the resteaurant were made. But the offer to buy was made by David Gooch and Melvin Rodrigue. So began the process that ended yesterday.

"No staff or menu changes are planned at either restaurant." We'll see about that. New owners always say stuff like that.

The story broke yesterday afternoon on my radio show, when one of the attorneys involved called in with the news."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Tired And Unhappy, You Think Of Houses
Delmore Schwartz

Tired and unhappy, you think of houses
Soft-carpeted and warm in the December evening,
While snow's white pieces fall past the window,
And the orange firelight leaps.
A young girl sings
That song of Gluck where Orpheus pleads with Death;
Her elders watch, nodding their happiness
To see time fresh again in her self-conscious eyes:
The servants bring in the coffee, the children go to bed,
Elder and younger yawn and go to bed,
The coals fade and glow, rose and ashen,
It is time to shake yourself! and break this
Banal dream, and turn your head
Where the underground is charged, where the weight
Of the lean building is seen,
Where close in the subway rush, anonymous
In the audience, well-dressed or mean,
So many surround you, ringing your fate,
Caught in an anger exact as a machine!

you really can't beat the french for crazy poets but we've had our share of them too. delmore is right up there w/the best(or worst)of them. he kind of kicked off a particularly crazy generation of american poets that included lowell & jarrell & roetke & berryman. bellow wrote a big novel that revolved around his friendship w/delmore. berryman dedicated his best volume of poetry to him. he was as big a deal for a short period of time as any intellectual this side of mailer. it all came early & fast & was over just as quickly. of course, becoming insane didn't help & neither did the drinking.

there's no real way to understand the phenomena that was delmore unless you read through the poetry or check out his collection of short stories. the poetry can be a bit abstract but almost every poem will have a line or two that surprises or gives pause, like "anger as exact as a machine."

he died in a cold-water flea-bag hotel in nyc at the age of 53. he wasn't identified for two days.

Monday, December 7, 2009


bobo fought in the pacific war. he was on a battleship. you'd have never known it to be around him but i can attest to the fact that he woke up screaming till the day he died. he didn't sound like such a good time charlie on those special nightmarish nights.

this is a picture from that sunday morning way back in 1941 & those are the full armada of battleships the u.s. had in the pacific at the time. if you look closely enough, you can see they're being demolished by the japanese air attack. two of those ships never sailed again after the attack & most were damaged so heavily it took months to repair them. by then, the japanese had had their way in the pacific & the u.s. didn't regain the upper hand again until the battle of midway nearly a year later. even then, so much of the subsequent horrific combat occured because of the damage inflicted on the american fleet the morning of december 7 1941.

i think it's a good thing on days like this to remember & reflect on where we were in the world then & where we are now. still, i always come back to those frightening screams i heard through my walls so many times. the effects of war last more than one lifetime & they should also be reckoned into the equation whenever we think about pursuing it as a course of action.


i was listening to waits & playing his songs before i went off to new college. for many people, he was an acquired taste. i can remember clearing my dorm room full of people just by putting one of his albums on the stereo. i actually saw him live in sarasota just as he started doing the more elaborate stage act. even way back then, it was pretty special & some doubters were welcomed into the fold that night.

he's re-invented himself by whittling away the superfluous & foregrounding the lyrics & melody. like dylan before him & his contemporary, elvis costello, he's maintained or surpassed his best work as he's gotten older. if you think that's easy to do, just watch the commercial for neil diamond's "cherry cherry c'mas."

i don't know what radar waits has been flying under according to mike b. other than that one mike carries around inside his head. waits is bigger now than he's ever been & tickets for his concerts last year were a huge commodity. my buddy in new orleans mark p. saw him & was blown away. in fact, everything i read about the tour was superlative. even tho i've already seen him live, i agree w/ken that he's one of the few remaining acts i'd love to see perform live just one more time.

speaking of time, i saw waits do this on letterman many many years ago. the album it was on, rain dogs, hadn't come out yet & he played the song as the closing credits for the show ran & didn't finish. i started looking for the song everywhere immediately.

And they all pretend they're orphans and their memory's like a train
You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
And the things you can't remember tell the things you can't forget
That history puts a saint in every dream

And it's time time time that you love
And it's time time time

i suspect he's as surprized & grateful as anyone that he's made it to 60. we may get one more tour out of him(since that's the only way for these guys to make money) but i'm not holding my breath.

Friday, December 4, 2009


i thought of the eakins picture i posted here awhile back when i first saw brigman's pictures: the female version of eakin's vision. of course, that was an initial moment of recognition that gives way to differentiation & discernment. eakins was tunnel-visioned, while brigman was following some other muse. they both work for me.
here is brigman's wiki page, tho there's not much there to follow up on.

here's another site that shows more of her work.

"Anne W. Brigman, a l ate nineteenth-century pictorialist photographer, was born in Hawaii but spent most of her life in California. She used natural images combined with the female figure to create mysteriously poetic images. The Dying Cedar can be understood as a commentary on the grandeur and universality of nature—the oneness of woman and creation. More recently, the photograph has been seen as a statement of feminist principles, expressing a yearning for some sort of unattainable freedom. Brigman used cedar trees almost exclusively in her female nude images, but the reference to Daphne (the nymph pursued by Apollo who was saved by being transformed into a laurel tree) is unmistakable. Brigman was one of the first women to photograph nudes in a wilderness landscape. Her images deliberately resemble charcoal drawings, as she sought to capture the spirit of her subject rather than a faithful reproduction." - National Museum of American Art (CD-ROM) (New York and Washington D.C.: MacMillan Digital in cooperation with the National Museum of American Art, 1996).

Thursday, December 3, 2009


A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end . . . but not necessarily in that order.

while i believe chris marker is the greatest filmmaker alive, godard is somewhere right behind him. godard had the great good sense to pay attention to the early generation of filmmakers & proceeded to rethink & rework their contributions. add that to the technical advancements of the craft & you're in another ballpark.

this is all about how you tell a story but it has nothing to do w/how i want the story told to me. i've never understood how MY ego fits into the story YOU want to tell me. i suspect that's why i sometimes fail to understand YOUR story.

godard has worked to make us SEE this problematic.

Friday, November 27, 2009


i guess i'm crazy but when this guy died, it marked the end of something that michael jackson couldn't even guess at understanding. such is life in the big world that never stops spinning & refuses to mark the passing of the great ones. that's suppose to be up to us & i guess we miss it more often than not.
"machine gun" gave us a taste at where hendrix was going.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"i ain't wasting time no more..."

"There ain’t no revolution, only evolution, but every time I’m in Georgia I 'eat a peach' for peace."

rex had the allman's right, along w/skynard. listening to these guys now, i just don't see what held us back. there was the redneck factor, i suppose, but hell, i was listening to hank williams & merle haggard. talking w/rex the last time back in p'cola, he just shook his head when he said, "these guys were in their late teens & early 20s when they were doing this stuff." it's true. duane allman was 25yo when he wrecked his motorcycle & checked out of this life for good. by that time, he'd amazed most everyone in the music business w/his versatile talents(session player at muscle shoals for the likes of Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Otis Rush, Percy Sledge, Johnny Jenkins, Boz Scaggs, Delaney & Bonnie and jazz flautist Herbie Mann)& dazzled anyone else who listened w/his range, power, & lyricism: everything that makes "layla" by derek & the dominoes astonishing is all duane allman.

this is supposed to be the only song he ever wrote.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

" feel a whole lot better..."

the 60s & the rock & roll business in general ate up a lot of astonishing talent. there were the big splashy stars that seem to have triumphed over death & still loom large but there was a lot of collateral damage along the way too. skip spence, syd barrett, gene clark, doug sahm. a lot of them made it out of the 1960s only to have their past excesses catch up w/them when they hit their 50s. i have to say i'm feeling that a bit at this point myself, down a gallbladder & feet that don't function & all. mainly, it's just a drag that these guys couldn't be around a little longer to produce the kind of music they were capable of producing.

this is a lovely lovely song. it makes you want to curl up & bite into some deep painful regret & suck it dry.

It was more like a dream than reality
I must have thought it was a dream
While she was here with me
When she was near I didn't think she would leave
When she was gone it was too much to believe

So with tomorrow I will borrow
Another moment of joy and sorrow
And another dream and another with tomorrow

So if some day won't be time just to look behind
There won't be reasons
No descriptions for my place and mind
There was so much, I was told it was not real
So many things that I could not taste but I could feel

So with tomorrow I will borrow
Another moment of joy and sorrow
And another dream and another with tomorrow

"He was the songwriter. He had the 'gift' that none of the rest of us had developed yet…. What deep inner part of his soul conjured up songs like "Set You Free," "Feel A Whole Lot Better," "I’m Feelin’ Higher," "Eight Miles High"? So many great songs! We learned a lot of songwriting from him and in the process learned a little bit about ourselves. At one time, he was the power in the Byrds, not McGuinn, not Crosby — it was Gene who would burst through the stage curtain banging on a tambourine, coming on like a young Prince Valiant. A hero, our savior. Few in the audience could take their eyes off this presence." chris hillman

a great retrospective article is here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


"I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could."

the nude is by alfred stieglitz, the great groundbreaking photographer who married o'keefe when he was quite old. personally, i've always considered steiglitz to be more important as an artist & as a champion of many other modern artists.

i've always found it hard to gender an artist & i can't really see much reason to do it. still, some of the greats seem to insist on foregrounding it. it's hard for me to see o'keefe's art being done by anyone other than a woman. it's true that mapplethorpe came along & "re-did" the flower motif but there's heavy irony in his pictures & he bleeds the color out of them. o'keefe is all about feminized colors(especially, the pastels)& space, both open & convoluted. o'keefe's flowers are anything but flowers or they are uber-flowers in their magnified complexity.

Friday, November 13, 2009


ken or mike might be able to think of someone else who played both sides of the pop music street as well as young but i can't. as far as i'm concerned, no one rocked w/more ferocity (thank god for all that buzz & feedback) or created such delicately simple but memorable acoustic melodies. i can still remember playing after the goldrush for rex & him reacting as if i'd thrown acid in his eyes. "that voice," was all he kept saying & it was "that voice" that a lot of other folks (less qualified to judge than the gifted mr northrup) couldn't get over either. for me, the beauty of a song like "after the goldrush" or "don't let it bring you down" was the whole point, who cared about the voice singing it. we'd all done dylan duty by that time w/cohen on the way, so i couldn't see what the problem was w/young's voice & he could rock too. how many hours of air-guitar did we accumulate while listening to "down by the river" or "southern man"? hell, i think it was young who inspired us to actually buy guitars & learn to play & stop w/all the pretending.

i gave up on him somewhere after the harvest disappointment. that was actually my loss because he had a lot of good music left in him. i picked up listening to him again sometime during the outrigger years & tried to piece together his oeuvre. that wasn't easy because many of the albums were out of print at the time(i count nearly 10 albums that weren't available at the time). i did get a hold of comes a time, a mostly great album that stayed on the acoustic side of the street. he put out freedom & ragged glory
during the outrigger years & even the shit-ass kids who worked for me were sold on young.

his last decent album, to me, was his collaboration w/pearl jam, mirror ball & his last really strong album was his homage to kurt cobain, sleeps with angels. while i'd like to think the magic could strike again at anytime w/someone as idiosyncratic as
young, i'm not holding my breath. he hasn't put out a truly coherently great album since the 1970s & then, really, only two. he's always been a kind of hit or miss artist & there have been a LOT of misses lately. those 10 unavailable albums way back when are available now & tho none of them are completely great there is great music to be found there. i can't say the same for post-mirror ball music.

for me, young(NOT the rolling stones, who now just look like a bunch of drunk old women on stage)proved that rock & roll isn't only a young man's game. watching him huddled on stage w/the other members of crazy horse during the ragged glory tour was simply thrilling. there was no way to hear "time's winged chariot" through the buzz & grind of the band & that, i realized, is what rock & roll is all about.

happy 64, mr neil fucking young.

"this invisible activity, this sense..."

when i first got out here to the bay area, i kept falling for the same thing over & over again. at various times of the day, for no obvious reasons, there would mount up in the skies east of berkeley huge purple clouds that resembled the kind of horrific thunderstorms i was accustomed to back home in p'cola. what did i know? who'd ever heard of fog so thick it really functioned like rain? i remember a bright warm sunny day in berkeley, so perfect i just had to go over to "the city" & it being so bright & warm & sunny there UNTIL out of nowhere the purple beast descended on the city within a few minutes & i was stuck way up in the castro in shorts on a sunday when public transit seems to be run by the i ching. this is serious fog, folks, & unless you've been a victim of it, you really can't imagine it.
still, robert cameron's picture of the "fog that ate san francisco" gives you a pretty good idea. cameron just died this week at the age of 98. he was blind in one eye for the better part of his career & was mostly blind in the other one when he was up just last week doing ariels for his soon to open posthumous show. i can't say this is really ground breaking work but i can say, judging from these two shots, he had literally one hell of an eye.

his sfchron obit.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


this stagnant dufus should have been gone a long time ago. maybe around the time someone discovered all the various illegal aliens that were keeping his weekend funtime(horseshows) going. his obvious racist tendencies(vide his support of the "birthers")should have also been nails in his coffin. his stumbling mumbling delivery should have been too.

if you want the best indication of what a swine hack this fucker is check out the denials from HIM that's he's going over to fixed news. i'm imagining mr vaughn sitting in rapt attention as this ass-wipe spews out his hatred. he'll be on fox by c'mas. fucking liar. here's just one quote from an organization that dobbs has impacted in a negative, destructive way:

"Our contention all along was that Lou Dobbs — who has a long record of spreading lies and conspiracy theories about immigrants and Latinos — does not belong on the ‘most trusted name in news,’” Roberto Lovato, a co-founder of, said in a statement. “We are thrilled that Dobbs no longer has this legitimate platform from which to incite fear and hate."

here's the story written by legit journalists.

"The descent beckons / as the ascent beckoned."

On November 11, 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman began burning Atlanta, Georgia to the ground in preparation for his march south - known as Sherman’s March to the Sea. In the process of moving towards Savannah his troops tore up the railroad tracks and destroyed as much property as possible along the way…

Photo of Sherman’s men destroying tracks near Atlanta, by George N. Barnard - Library of Congress

November 11, 1926 - US Highway Route 66 was established, a road that was to become the main way out of the dust-bowl for refugees in the 30s and a major tourist highway lined with motels and weird roadside attractions in the 50s

The descent beckons
as the ascent beckoned.
Memory is a kind
of accomplishment,
a sort of renewal
an initiation, since the spaces it opens are new places
inhabited by hordes
heretofore unrealized,
of new kinds—
since their movements
are toward new objectives
(even though formerly they were abandoned).

No defeat is made up entirely of defeat—since
the world it opens is always a place
unsuspected. A
world lost,
a world unsuspected,
beckons to new places
and no whiteness (lost) is so white as the memory
of whiteness .

With evening, love wakens
though its shadows
which are alive by reason
of the sun shining—
grow sleepy now and drop away
from desire .

Love without shadows stirs now
beginning to awaken
as night

The descent
made up of despairs
and without accomplishment
realizes a new awakening:
which is a reversal
of despair.
For what we cannot accomplish, what
is denied to love,
what we have lost in the anticipation—
a descent follows,
endless and indestructible
----william carlos williams

thanks to ordinary finds for the memories.


"That is my principal objection to life, I think: It’s too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes." Deadeye Dick

"Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance." KV

i held off reading vonnegut for a long time. by the time i got to new college, noone was reading him & he wasn't being pushed by anyone on the faculty. i think i picked him up when i got back to p'cola from my unfinished time at new college. during my first year at the outrigger i read most of his work. i think i was ready to appreciate his cynical sense of the absurd human condition. the outrigger had a way of opening you to that position. that, & the idea of humanity fading idiotically into the ether while existence on earth continued unconcernedly on. the great human commentator, george carlin, had a bit about earth just shaking off mankind's contaminating & destructive presence & getting on w/things w/o us. carlin & vonnegut seem like two peas in a pod & i suspect carlin stole his material from vonnegut like woody allen stole material from henny youngman. so it goes...


"these are pictures
of crude force.
Once at night
waiting at a station
with a friend
a fast freight
thundered through
kicking up dust.
My friend,
a distinguished artist,
turned to me
to protect his eyes:
that's what we'd all like to be, bill,
he said. i smiled
knowing how deeply
he meant it.
" from "To Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

it was demuth's b'day this week. i wanted to commemorate it w/this quote from bill williams that i couldn't completely remember. so while i searched it out, i had a couple of days to reflect on demuth's generation of gay artists, the ones prior to stonewall. if the post-stonewall generation blazed w/celebratory triumph that sputtered out in the face of aids, demuth's generation simmered w/repressed anxiety that sputtered out w/each sad unfulfilled death. it's true that they left us w/their art but what a painful thing that creation must have been. while the experience of the lafayette baths must have been exhilarating on a personal level, putting it down on canvas must have been excruciating. back then, who knew what might be considered "obscene" & fictionalizing a clearly gay moment by claiming its location to be "turkish baths" wouldn't necessarily keep the cops away from the studio. powerful male erections weren't usually depicted in the art of the time. even the hetero-master, picasso, had to put his erections on minotaur figures.

of course, "crude force" may well result in these dichotomies, impulsive desire surging forth but subdued by beauty. yes, charlie, that IS what we all want to be.

"Search the history of American art," wrote Ken Johnson in the New York Times, "and you will discover few watercolors more beautiful than those of Charles Demuth. Combining exacting botanical observation and loosely Cubist abstraction, his watercolors of flowers, fruit and vegetables have a magical liveliness and an almost shocking sensuousness."

Sunday, November 8, 2009


"When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice." Robert Frank

i was fortunate to see the most comprehensive retrospective of frank's work, moving out, at the time at the national gallery when i was in grad school at uva in 1994. i knew about his connections w/the beats & maybe had even seen his film on the rolling stones. mainly tho, i was drawn to the pictures.
the early ones were stunning in their sense of spontaneous composition. he'd captured "moments" perfectly, as they unfolded or revealed themselves as tableau. i don't get the sense of an "outsider" peering into some foreign culture & revealing its truths. i've always felt that frank was very much INSIDE the american experience, that it was his experience as an american w/other americans we get in the pictures.
the later "sloppy" pictures & collages show me the same thing, tho he's working from a more universal experience in them. years of personal triumphs & tragedies are accumulated in the pictures & presented in such a way that they address a larger audience w/specifically personal concerns. their simplicity undermines any convoluted solipsism.
i come back to "sick of goodbys" over & over, it's artifice resonating w/sorrow & pain & forgiveness. another time, it reveals triumph & tenaciousness. or again...

"I was looking at Robert Frank’s photograph Sick of Goodby’s in his book The Lines of My Hand. Moments before I had been listening to a Johnny Cash song called I Wish I Was Crazy Again. Then I thought of the goodbyes in the book to old friends caught once and for all and never again to be seen in life, and I was struck by the intensity of the sadness of life and its redeeming qualities as reflected in these moving photos. With Johnny Cash as well, the desire to see it all again, to go out one more time into the wild flame only to be burned up forever and never be seen again except in these farewell photos, is moving beyond description. The photos speak of an acceptance of things as they are. the inevitable death of us all and the last photo – that last unposed shot to remind us of our friends, of our loss of the times we had in a past captured only on film in black and white. Frank has been there, and seen that, and recorded it with such subtlety that we only look in awe, our own hearts beating with the memories of lost partners and songs.

To wish for the crazy times one last time and freeze it in the memory of a camera is the least a great artist can do. Robert Frank is a great democrat. We’re all in these photos. Paint dripping from a mirror like blood. I’m sick of goodbyes. And aren’t we all, but it’s nice to see it said.

more reflections on frank.